Strathclyde trial paves way for railway-wide radio network

Network Rail has reached the half-way point in its trial of a new digital radio communications system (GSM-R), which is due to be rolled out across Britain's rail network by 2013.

The Railway Communications System will provide, for the first time, a secure means of driver to signaller communication with nationwide coverage. It is part of a wider programme to renew Network Rail's fixed and wireless telecoms infrastructure at a cost of around £1.7bn.

Tests of the system are currently running in the Strathclyde area of Scotland, where several key commuting routes have been operating the new system since October 2007. The trial, in co-operation with train operator First ScotRail and freight business EWS, has involved the installation of modern communications technology, developed by Siemens, into driver's cabins.

The current analogue radio systems do not provide full network coverage and now need to be replaced and updated. The £1.7 billion investment will provide 100 per cent radio coverage throughout Britain, ensuring that emergency communications will be constantly maintained across the whole GB rail network. 

Jon Wiseman, Network Rail programme director for the Radio Communications System, commented: "This system has the potential to revolutionise the way we operate both passenger and freight services on Britain's rail network. To date, the Strathclyde trial has proved extremely successful, with no major defects.

"The project continues to make excellent progress throughout the UK and we are on track to make the system fully operational by 2013."

The GSM-R system will provide new facilities such as text messages, broadcast calls to all trains in an area and emergency calls, enabling faster and more accurate exchange of information. Drivers will no longer have to use fixed lineside telephones, and the improved communication channel between controllers and drivers should result in a better flow of information to passengers.

The Strathclyde trial is expected to be completed by August 2008. The system is planned to be fully operational by 2013.


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